by Hailey Greke

Up to 600 individual athletes competed at this year’s University of Regina Cheerleading Competition. Fresh from the Huskie Open in Saskatoon, teams from the elementary, high school and all-star divisions participated in hopes of winning.

“People just try it out and they love it. If you are the type of person that’s a little bit competitive, want a challenge, like to advance your skills in whatever area, cheerleading is great,” said Mishayla Potts, President of the Saskatchewan Cheerleading Association (SCA), the governing body of cheerleading in the province.

Up to 600 individual athletes competed at this year’s University of Regina Cheerleading Competition. Fresh from the Huskie Open in Saskatoon, teams from the elementary, high school and all-star divisions participated in hopes of winning.

“People just try it out and they love it. If you are the type of person that’s a little bit competitive, want a challenge, like to advance your skills in whatever area, cheerleading is great,” said Mishayla Potts, President of the Saskatchewan Cheerleading Association (SCA), the governing body of cheerleading in the province.

All of the judges at competitions are SCA-trained. Teams are judged in three areas: difficulty, execution and routine skills. There is also a judge who evaluates the safety in the routines.

Potts, who is also the manager of the Riders’ cheerleaders and coach of the U of R team, said that cheerleading is now appealing to a younger crowd. She said that because of programs that are now available for the younger ones, they are actually choosing cheerleading as the sport they want to do.

“A lot of people have tried it who maybe who didn’t fit into the realm of basketball or the traditional dance realm and they’ve really, really enjoyed it. So I’ve seen some people who have just tried it and have really stuck with it for a long time and really enjoyed it,” she said.

Still, not all cheerleaders are in elementary or high school. The U of R’s team is former national champ, and won second in nationals last year. The team has seven SCA certified judges and six high school team coaches among its members.

Level 10 Fitness trainer Jeff Petryna took up his position as the team’s trainer five years ago. He works with the team developing specific exercises to suit the sport’s physical demands.

 “Their sport is not recognized as much as basketball or hockey, it’s more taken for granted. I was willing to give them my time and show them respect that they deserve,” said Petryna.

Cheerleading is very demanding on the human body and the athletes are prone to numerous injuries. The sport is about repetition, so Petryna is dealing with new injuries every week along with long-standing ones.

The shoulders and joints take a constant pounding. As a result Petryna finds the biggest problem is with shoulder injuries, most of which are reoccurring. However, like in many sports, the athletes grin and bear and participate for the sake of the team.

“They just get a bad rap, I feel, from the past. Just how people typically hear and think about cheerleaders – the old style, old school cheerleader type. And they haven’t yet been given a fair advantage on that aspect of it.”

Petryna has been noticing changes though. More people are starting to respect what cheerleaders do. He has trained so many athletes, but says that these (cheerleaders) are some of the best athletes he’s ever trained.

Potts said she enjoys all the diversity a team like the U of R team brings to the table.

“Some people have a lot of dance experience, and can really lead polishing up our dances and even contributing choreography. A lot of people are really great at organizing, can do fundraisers and run things like that. The amount of talent on the team is just in such a wide range of items and different backgrounds.”

Cheerleading is a very power- based sport. The team members who get thrown or lifted need more upper body strength. The base members, those who do the lifting, need more lower body power.  

“They’re athletes like a football player, like a hockey player, like a basketball player. And every athlete needs all components to make themselves better and great. They need the athletic attributes of power, strength, speed, quickness, balance, flexibility and core strength.”

Petryna says cheerleading has all of the physical attributes and components that make it a sport just like everything else.

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